Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Winter hiatus has ended

But, strangely early...climate change should be renamed climate instability to convey a better sense of reality.
While I do love the early warmth, I know that this is eerily felt by other species who may be drawn out of their genetically driven slumbers only to be met by instability caused by human driven carbon pollution, among a few thousand other travesties.

However, the garden beckons. And every year brings an urgency to learn more, to pretend that I'm moving in a direction of greater community strength, so when the SHTF, I am able to have a teensy bit of resiliency. I went to the Transition Towns London meeting this spring to find lots of new faces and new energy. I hope to be able to find like-minded, calloused-handed folks to share my passions with.

Having a small baby in the spring is very exciting. Everything is new for Ethan, and me. I see everything a little differently, always a look-out for an ill tasting pine cone, a stick, soil, insects, and anything else that looks like fun for a 10 month old. Ethan has a sense of humour, which is great, and I'm happy to do the switch-a-roo for something better for him to handle. Also, I try to let him be. Time to just sit and be himself, with just a watchful, yet discrete eye, so he can crawl around and really get into things. This afternoon, I enjoyed letting him play with 6 foot long cedar stakes, which provided endless delight.
I cleaned out my mini-greenhouse, sized up remnants of last year's projects left undone, and mixed the compost.
I raked a large patch of forlorn lawn and sprinkled a little grass seed. I swept up pine needles, noticed the intensely blue-green leaves of young catnip, positioned the empty rain barrel to capture a good rain, and dreamed of where I will transplant the plethora of day lily's who presently reside where the new raised tomato bed will be. Only the lily's don't know it yet.
I've brought in the house all my growing trays for a good washing and the kitchen table's been moved toward the windows to support a few hundred seedlings.
Which is for, I should have mentioned, the garden for the house we just bought. We've been renting the house from my family, so there has always been a sense of impermanence. However, today my friend Jana brought me some spare blue iris for the front garden. Where, hopefully, they will live happily ever after.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Waiting for winter

All right....It's Dec 4th, and we've had just a little snow. It's been wet and grey outside, and it is a little sad to see all the beautiful greenery limp over. However, the kale, collards, parsley, and the tatsoi are all still hanging on. I also have a short row of heirloom carrots that I haven't dug up yet...maybe tomorrow. The herbs have all succumbed to the frost...the sage, thyme, chives and lavender are all curling up, sleepy for the long winter ahead. I did dry out some oregano and sage. I chopped and froze a bag full of chives - ready to be tossed in some soup.
I still have to empty and move the rain barrel and re-attach the longer pipe to funnel rain away from the house. I attended a beginner's permaculture workshop a few weeks ago, and was inspired to capture the water that is pumped out of the basement by the sump pump and to direct the water toward the garden. A project I'll research a bit more over the winter.
Dan did give me a new pressure canner for my birthday...so I will be doing more home processing in 2012. I have also begun some seed shopping online...some might call it seed porn/voyeurism...can't bear not to see vegetables and flowers blooming somewhere...and how I might buy a few more varieties that I've never grown before. Seed giving will definitely be part of my holidays.
Lastly, I was able to transport two of my large snake plants to my Mother's apartment today. This is part of our strategy to baby proof the living room. I was grateful to my friend Jana, who gave me three cuttings from her elephant ear plant, so once they've rooted, I can plant them and hang them from the ceiling in a nice 70's macrame plant hanger, carefully out of the reach of baby.
Thanks for reading! Happy Yule everybody!

Monday, September 26, 2011

My lawn sings....

Well, summer is finally winding down, and so begins the work of putting the garden to bed. I have begun seed saving, both flowers and vegetables, some composting, and putting away decorations. I have picked a small mountain of oregano and have it hanging to dry in the greenhouse. I plan to dry some chives, sage and thyme as well.
I took down our screen tent, and while pulling up the stakes, I noticed how many crickets were hanging out on the screens. Once the tent was rolled up and the bare patch of grass was exposed, I could see through the yellowing grass roots how many crickets were really there. And in a moment of pause, I could hear a cacophony of cricket legs hoping to find each other. It was really nice.

I am planning to re-offer my saved seeds this year at a local event's fundraiser. So this year, I am taking pictures of the plants to accompany the seeds so buyers can see what the plants looked like. I think it's a great idea...one that is obviously used by commercial seed sellers. However, I use little brown manila envelopes that I hand decorate, so a photo with each packet is not practical.

On a side note, I am glad to see so many friends and colleagues working toward more food sustainability, and raising awareness toward such things. At the same time, while I feel good about the work that I'm doing, I really feel that it is just a drop in the rain barrel, hahaha. I am planning to read more this winter about permaculture while I do some research for a book I am planning to write. I have not purchased a pressure canner yet, like I had hoped. Nor I have processed as much of the season's harvest as I would have liked. I have hundreds of empty mason jars in the basement, and it bothers me every time I walk by them, lamenting the lost opportunity to make pickles, salsa, or jam. This is due to having a small baby this summer who is absolutely terrific! So, I am trying to be more forgiving with myself for not being as much of a squirrel that I would like to have been this year.

Agriculture with a future comes to dinner | Energy Bulletin

Agriculture with a future comes to dinner | Energy Bulletin

Friday, September 9, 2011

After the break....

Once Lily, Sylvia and I had begun, there was no looking back. We had two grocery buggies full of sod and weeds, which are composting in the back garden as I type. I had nearly 30 plants to be arranged once we had laid down the landscaping material, which went on top of leaf and grass clippings. The clippings were covering the layer of cardboard and newspapers. I really enjoy the lasagna method. Do not disturb the weed seeds, many of which may have been laying dormant for decades. I do expect some weeds to push through, but will be manageable.
We laid down 4 stepping stones, so that, come spring, I will be able to delicately pounce through the garden without damaging any plants or their roots. We have given the herbs and perennials plenty of space to spread out, and I will use marigolds, alysum and nasturtium to fill in the blank spots. The ladder, gnome, and shells add some whimsy. I'll store all of the decorations in the shed over the winter.

This project would not have been possible without the gift of labour from friends! I shared some soup, cookies and herbal iced tea in exchange. Thanks for reading!

Photos from the lawn conversion

First, the before photos - we had to remove the layer of grass and weeds, then frame out the space, dig, shake all the soil from the roots of the removed grass, then, we took a short break. Lily laid out the first piece of landscaping material. It was a great day for the job.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Third More Flowers!

I am happy to share that a couple of friends, Lily and Sylvia, joined me last Saturday to tackle the front lawn. I had purchased 40 perennial flowers and herbs to be planted on the front lawn. We dug up the top layer of grass, which consisted mostly of weeds, then laid down some cardboard, some leaf mold and grass clippings, upon which we laid down a layer of landscaping material. Four bags of top soil, which was barely enough, went on top. Lily and I then dug through the material and mulches to plant all the flowers and herbs. We then went about decorating......
I put out an old ladder which we wrapped the morning glories around, a garden gnome for good luck, three shepherd's hooks with lanterns, and some large sea shells.
I think it looks terrific! Next spring....I'll have a better idea of what needs to be added. A nice selection of flowers, herbs and ground covers - all growing beside the bachelor buttons, dill, sage and nasturtiums. All I need now are some bricks or stones to give it a polished look.
While doing the work, I kept thinking how several of my neighbours were watching us. This is the second lawn on the street to do something like this. Lawn replacing is really outside the norm still, on this street at least, and people might be afraid that this will negatively affect their property values. Or, it might inspire them to eliminate their time consuming, and petroleum consuming lawns.
I drew my inspiration from H.C. Flores' book "Food not Lawns". Next spring, I plan to sneak in some parsley, some red swiss chard, and some giant orange amaranth. Lastly, I am happy to be invited to attend the upcoming urban food conference here in London at Brescia University College, Oct 16th, and hopefully, as a member with Seeds of Diversity Canada.
Photos of the lawn conversion to be posted shortly. Thanks for reading!